Exciting competitions and cool new products at this year’s Pizza Expo
By Stefanie Croley
A whopping 80,000 more tourists than usual trekked to Las Vegas in
mid-March for March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament, but inside
the Las Vegas Convention Center, basketball was the last thing on
A whopping 80,000 more tourists than usual trekked to Las Vegas in mid-March for March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament, but inside the Las Vegas Convention Center, basketball was the last thing on everyone’s mind.
|Rick Nixon of Itza Ristorante and Pizzeria in Nelson, B.C., inspects his pizza before serving it to the judges. |
Pizza was the name of the game from March 18 to 21, as the Canadian Pizza team and thousands of other pizza enthusiasts ventured to sin city for International Pizza Expo.
Spanning the area of seven football fields, Pizza Expo once again offered great networking opportunities, noteworthy new products, engaging and enlightening seminars and jam-packed aisles on the trade show floor.
Representing the Canadians in the International Pizza Competition was our Chef of the Year winner Rocco Agostino of Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto and runner-up Rick Nixon of Itza Ristorante and Pizzeria in Nelson, B.C. Agostino earned a finalist spot in the non-traditional division of the International Pizza Challenge, placing third in his category with a savoury porchetta pizza, featuring fior di latte cheese, porchetta from Porchetta and Co. in Toronto, pork crackling, chili peppers, roasted garlic and rapini, all topped with a truffle cream sauce.
Nixon competed in the finals of the traditional division with a twist on a traditional sausage and pepper pizza. Nixon topped his pizza with four varieties of peppers: fresh green bell peppers, roasted red peppers, roasted poblanos and pickled banana peppers. He made two varieties of sausage – buffalo apple and rosemary, and veal and red wine – and completed the pizza with a creamy blend of garlic-infused Italian mascarpone, partly skimmed mozzarella, full-fat edam and grated Grana Padano cheeses.
|Rocco Agostino of Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto presents his porchetta pizza to the judges. |
Canadian Pizza also bumped into competitors from Pizzeria Defina in Toronto and attendees from Antonino’s Original Pizza in Windsor, Ont. On the culinary competition floor, Thiago Vasconcelo won the traditional category, Floriana Pastore took the non-traditional title, Jeff Smokevitch clinched first place in the Pan-American division and Michele D’Amelio won the title in the Italian division. Congratulations to all competitors!
Here are some of the trends we noticed on the show floor this year: Gluten-free items had a strong presence at the show, with several exhibitors featuring gluten-free products. We found our Canadian friends at the Kinnikinnick booth showcasing a gluten-, dairy-, peanut- and nut-free frozen dough ball that comes in a 400-gram size and rolls out to two 12-inch pizza crusts.
Soulmaize Bakery was sampling its gluten-free pizza crust mix made with corn flour. The mix has a 12-month shelf life and one kilogram of mix yields two medium pizzas.
The shiny, red Version D oven from XLT Ovens was on display on the show floor, featuring an optical flame sensor and stainless steel gas fittings. The Version D series features a sandwich door design, allowing for the addition of an extended front panel option.
An optional extended front, available in almost any colour, reduces heat radiate in the kitchen, and a new control box container ensures important manuals and documents are stored closed for easy reference.
Several new toppings caught our eye, including vegan shredded cheeses from Follow Your Heart. Available in mozzarella, cheddar and a fiesta blend, the cheeses are made with organic palm fruit oil and are soy-, gluten-, dairy- and lactose-free with a creamy, gooey texture.
The Mushroom Company featured individually quick-frozen roasted mushrooms. The kosher and organic-certified mushrooms are fire, smoke or flavour roasted over open flames and are available whole, sliced, diced or in custom cuts.
|The Prop & Peller booth had authentic Bavarian soft pretzels and dipping sauces on display. |
NRC now carries a Sticky Media product made from thermal paper that’s designed to withstand hot environments. This means, the order receipt or label will better stick to pizza boxes or items sitting under heat lamps.
Sherman Specialty Company Inc. carried a vast variety of items to entertain children in your pizzeria and help serve families better.
If you’re looking to grab some attention on the street, Samsung LED design was showcasing a walking LED ball that was turning a lot of heads. The rotating ball is attached to a backpack and company lit says it runs for six hours and has a two hour charge time.
Lizbeth Lane turned out a unique pizza sauce with their tomatillo cilantro flavour. Their sauces earned some attention this year, being named one of the 10 most “unique and innovative foods” and at a U.S. Fancy Food Show last year.
Mies Products displayed their filter machines for edible fats and oils that are designed to make your cooking oil last two to three times longer. John Reseburg, a salesperson for Mies, said the filter will provide the return on your investment in about a year.
Sauces and spices were hot topics this year. Rocky Mountain Spice Company featured a vegetable spice blend, as well as several other varieties, for mixing into oil as a tasty appetizer, or into sour cream as a side dip.
On the snacks side, we found the Prop & Peller Pretzel booth, with products launching in Canada soon. Their Bavarian pretzels are crusty on the outside and light and fluffly on the inside.
Mobile marketing was definitely a hot topic on the show floor, with several exhibitors discussing the technology on the show floor. Boomtext, powered by Mobivity, told us about a case study that followed a quick-service restaurant that sent out a text message offering 99-cent kids meals during regular hours for one month. More than 4,935 kids meals sold in five hours. This marketing strategy made its way to the seminar rooms too, where Clayton Kreuger offered tips for independent pizzerias. As Kreuger noted, 30 per cent of all restaurant searches in the United States come from mobile devices. With so many customers going mobile, it’s necessary to ensure your restaurant and website are mobile-friendly.
Visit www.canadianpizzamag.com to view more of our live coverage from the show, including exclusive photos and videos from the show floor, competition area and World Pizza Games. See you next year!